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How important are Odile's 32 fouettes?

107 posts in this topic

Diana Vishneva's choice is obviously based on the dramatic interpretation she's planned for any given performance.

I don't think that is so obvious. When I saw her with ABT in June. I knew her turns would be a failure as soon as she began. She started out with a lot of energy but I soon worried that she would not be able to get back on pointe. She got through in a way but I did not see any dramatic intent.

She does the Russian style fouettes which take a lot of muscle to get throught because the mechanics of the movement do not help.

Anyway she got throught the fouettes (I am not a counter so I don't know how many) but assigning dramatic intent is a stretch in my opinion.

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It's kind of like the Spessivtseva solo of Giselle. Yeah it wasn't always there, but now it's become of the Giselle tradition.

I think it's a bit more than that. For historical reasons I also don't like steps being altered or substituted. So many changes have crept into Swan Lake over the years that it's becoming increasingly difficult to know how much of the original choreography remains. At least we know for certain that the 32 fouettés were present in Petipa's original, so let's not hurry to toss them out.

Actually there's some doubt about that. In the book Tchaikovsky’s Ballets by Roland John Wiley, it states on page 247 (and footnote on page 317):

"In Zolushka [Cinderella] she [Legnani] performed two triple turns on pointe four times in succession, and, in the last act, thirty-two fouettes, for which her Swan Lake became famous.

Footnote: According to Solyannikov (‘Vospominaniya’, p. 86). Legnani performed not thirty-two but twenty fouettes at the first performance of Swan Lake in 1895 and won an ovation after repeating the number."

It was typical of the time to give encores of variations, so I'm guessing Legnani encored the section with 20 fouettes after resting during the audience applause for the first batch. It seems that everyone knew she could do the fouette trick by that time and she was concentrating on executing the "plastique" of the Russian classical style

Anyway, what is certain is that Odile's variation was fairly simple when first choreographed and later choreographers like Vaganova increased the difficulty by cramming in more turns to show off her students' technical ability, plus individual ballerinas who liked to turn added in yet more revolutions per turn.

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She does the Russian style fouettes which take a lot of muscle to get through because the mechanics of the movement do not help.

Actually, when done properly, they do not require more effort than the Cecchetti style. I actually find them easier.

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Hans's post got me thinking. I've seen men do fouettes, but I was wondering whether there is any significant choreography in which the man does a long series a la Odile's and which has the same kind of bravura effect?

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Anyway, what is certain is that Odile's variation was fairly simple when first choreographed and later choreographers like Vaganova increased the difficulty by cramming in more turns to show off her students' technical ability, plus individual ballerinas who liked to turn added in yet more revolutions per turn.

I would like to see evidence that Kschessinskaya's Odile's variation was fairly simple 20 years before Vaganova's students danced Odette/Odile. There is evidence that the terre a terre technique of the late 19th century was established with formidable execution of multiple pirouettes and fouettes.

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Bart, in the Vainonen Nutcracker, Prince Coqueluche sometimes does a series of sixteen double fouettés at the end of his variation instead of the diagonal of cabrioles.

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Getting back to topic---any ballerina worth her salt would have dazzled the Prince in the preceding PDD. The fouettes are the cherry on top of the cake; nice to look at but it has nothing to do with the taste of the cake. :off topic:

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Getting back to topic---any ballerina worth her salt would have dazzled the Prince in the preceding PDD. The fouettes are the cherry on top of the cake; nice to look at but it has nothing to do with the taste of the cake. :off topic:

As in good wine after one has smelt the 'nose', savoured the taste and identified the various

flavours, the fouettes are the "after taste' before the final statement is made and all is emphatically revealed in expressive discussion.

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As in good wine after one has smelt the 'nose', savoured the taste and identified the various

flavours, the fouettes are the "after taste' before the final statement is made and all is emphatically revealed in expressive discussion.

I must stop gulping my wine......

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From Jann Parry's Dance Now review of ABT's London appearances:

[Gillian] Murphy was technically secure, unleasing a plethora of fouettes. Impressive, until Tamara Rojo raised the bar at the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake the same weekend with a seemingly effortless seriee of quadruple fouettes, while remaining in touch with the music.
A SERIES of quadruples! And in time! Now that would be something to see.

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It seems to me that some of this discussion misses a couple of basic points. Since the infamous 32 were not choreographed by Petipa, but added to suit the virtuosity (and maybe the dramatic ideas) of a particular ballerina, we are not dealing with something written in stone. Let's face it, even much of the genuine Petipa choreography that survives isn't written in stone from one production to another, or why are companies still doing Chaboukiani's Bayadere instead of Petipa's.

The situation strikes me as similar to the matter of vocal decoration and improvisation in 18th and early 19th century bel canto opera. It was part of the singer's skill set to be able to provide virtuostic embellishments, and one singer was not bound by what another did, though of course a particularly skillful piece of decoration would be copied by more than one singer. The 32 (or whatever) fouettes were added by a dancer and I would think they can be changed by a dancer with a better or more personally effective notion to substitute. If they've become tradition, I'm not sure it isn't because too many dancers have let themselves be lazy or unimaginative.

Then, of course, there's the question of the music now used itself, which wasn't intended for the Odile/Siegfried pas de deux. For one thing, as Alastair Macaulay has pointed out, the music isn't especially suited to the 32 whirls. So - do we ask for the music Tchaikovsky actually wrote to be restored (isn't it the music now used for Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux?), which would more or less put an end to 32 anything, or accept that with all the various substitutions in score and choreography, the rather unmusical fouettes can give way to other possibilities?

It gives one furiously to think, as someone or other once said.

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I personally would rather see adherence to style than to a well-established trick. However, certain aspects of a ballet become iconic, like high notes or ornamentation in opera, and when they aren't performed, even when they aren't written -- like the high note at the end of "Celeste Aida," -- there's a sense that something's missing, and people feel cheated somehow. (I wouldn't miss the fouettes one bit, but then I don't miss the little cygnets one bit either in Balanchine's version.)

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Since the infamous 32 were not choreographed by Petipa, but added to suit the virtuosity (and maybe the dramatic ideas) of a particular ballerina, we are not dealing with something written in stone.

Now that we're back to the SL mood, ( :yahoo: ) and the 32 fouettes, i hope to find out how it is possible that the first time that the steps were done in this ballet was by Legnani in the february 1894 Ivanov staging ...of the likeside act!! :dunno:

Then, of course, there's the question of the music now used itself, which wasn't intended for the Odile/Siegfried pas de deux. For one thing, as Alastair Macaulay has pointed out, the music isn't especially suited to the 32 whirls. So - do we ask for the music Tchaikovsky actually wrote to be restored (isn't it the music now used for Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux?), which would more or less put an end to 32 anything, or accept that with all the various substitutions in score and choreography, the rather unmusical fouettes can give way to other possibilities?

I've seen clips of Fonteyn and Nureyev doing the BSPP using the Adagio from the original music (TPDD) and the Coda from the "Pas de Six", and she does 27 fouettes followed Nureyev doing pirouettes a la second.

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[i've seen clips of Fonteyn and Nureyev doing the BSPP using the Adagio from the original music (TPDD) and the Coda from the "Pas de Six", and she does 27 fouettes followed Nureyev doing pirouettes a la second.

Good God! Talk about torturing a score! They might as well have stuck to the original substitution. (And if I remember the Kavanagh's Nureyev bio correctly - I'm too lazy to go check - Margot was not at all happy about it.)

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[i've seen clips of Fonteyn and Nureyev doing the BSPP using the Adagio from the original music (TPDD) and the Coda from the "Pas de Six", and she does 27 fouettes followed Nureyev doing pirouettes a la second.

Good God! Talk about torturing a score! They might as well have stuck to the original substitution. (And if I remember the Kavanagh's Nureyev bio correctly - I'm too lazy to go check - Margot was not at all happy about it.)

Yep...the Adagio was from the "Tchaikowsky Pas de Deux", Sigfried's variation from the "Pas de Deux for two Merry Makers",Odile's solo is one of the variations from the "Pas de Six", and the Coda from the "Pas de Six" too...so yes, talk about torturing a score...! :yahoo:

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For one thing, as Alastair Macaulay has pointed out, the music isn't especially suited to the 32 whirls.

I think it works very well.

As for dancers being lazy and unimaginative; most of the time ballet dancers are not allowed to choose which steps they will do.

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From Macaulay's 7/15/07 Times article on ABT and the Black Swan coda :

"What's both bizarre and fascinating is that the music's rhythmic emphasis changes entirely after her first 16 turns. Yet despite the suddenly jarring disparity between what we see and hear, she just goes on turning."

He's right - the music does change, yet the dancer keeps doing the same thing with the same rhythm. Audiences may or may not find this bothersome, but there is a definite and unmusical disparity.

As for dancers not being allowed to choose what they will do in a big classical role, I think stars often have options they would not have in dancing, say, Balanchine or Kylian. Solos and codas in the grand display pieces tend to vary from dancer to dancer, and this is often the choice of the dancer involved rather than the will of the company. Baryshnikov does not do the same solo for Albrecht in the second act of Giselle as Nureyev, neither of them did what Bruhn did, and today Legris is not dancing the same steps as Malakhov. Makarova's Odette/Odile differed considerably from Fonteyn's - and so forth. The fouettes remain because they're expected and a challenge rather than because they ideally belong there.

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Thank you, popularlibrary, for reviving this remarkably vigorous thread and bringing the passage from Macaulay to our attention.

I think the fouettes stay because they are generally liked (and expected, as already noted). Even audience members who know little else about ballet know about those turns, look for them, and appraise them -- for once, everyone can feel a little like an expert, a nice inclusive feeling and a Good Thing in my view. I agree with those who've said they like them when they are well done and don't care for them when they're not. I see yours and Macaulay's point about the music, but I think it works just fine even if it's not ideal or what was intended.

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Actually, the dancer's rhythm should change along with the music.

The choices dancers have regarding choreography often depends on the company. At, for example, the Maryinsky, even principal dancers are usually told what to do. Western companies are less strict.

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From Macaulay's 7/15/07 Times article on ABT and the Black Swan coda :

"What's both bizarre and fascinating is that the music's rhythmic emphasis changes entirely after her first 16 turns. Yet despite the suddenly jarring disparity between what we see and hear, she just goes on turning."

He's right - the music does change, yet the dancer keeps doing the same thing with the same rhythm. Audiences may or may not find this bothersome, but there is a definite and unmusical disparity.

Actually, the dancer's rhythm should change along with the music.

And often does. After count 16, most Odiles who do multis (single-single-double, etc.) revert to straight singles.

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From Macaulay's 7/15/07 Times article on ABT and the Black Swan coda :

"What's both bizarre and fascinating is that the music's rhythmic emphasis changes entirely after her first 16 turns. Yet despite the suddenly jarring disparity between what we see and hear, she just goes on turning."

He's right - the music does change, yet the dancer keeps doing the same thing with the same rhythm. Audiences may or may not find this bothersome, but there is a definite and unmusical disparity.

Actually, the dancer's rhythm should change along with the music.

And often does. After count 16, most Odiles who do multis (single-single-double, etc.) revert to straight singles.

Give me an old fashioned ballerina that can deliver good 32 singles with a perfect 90 degrees a la second, and i'll be happy. If well done, they go perfectly with the 4/4 tempo

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From Maurice Leonard's "Markova The Legend"

"All these solos should contain these steps. They are like the arias in opera. They are tests, and if you can't do them you shouldn't be in that ballet"

Alicia Markova.

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Almost all tenors, including Caruso, Gigli, Bjoerling, Corelli, etc. have sung their arias transposed to a lower key, especially as they aged. When they sing a b-flat instead of a C, they aren't singing the notes. If that didn't happen, opera would have been dead a long time ago.

Men in ballet have been changing the text since Imperial times, with a significant impact on style. They've changed the structure of some ballets by combining the partnering hero/lead with the virtuoso, and in the originals, virtuosity looked more like the exhausting Bournonville solos than the ones that were characteristic of the Bolshoi men, as we've been witnessing in the excellent series of Petipa reconstruction lec-demos in Seattle presented by Doug Fullington: Desiree/Florimund's original solo alone would have felled most recent ballerinos, with the exception of Thomas Lund (before he retired) and some others, especially in the context of dancing both acts.

I think the only reason we are having this discussion is that women kept to the text long enough so that we have a semblance of what it was, even with distorted tempi to allow them to "get the notes in," and that the virtuoso elements retained and that have become iconic intersect nicely as body types and training have changed over the years. Doug Fullington related in one of the seminars the story that, back in the day, when a famous ballerina wanted to change a variation, she was told that people would assume that she just couldn't do it, and she went back to the original; and, today, much of the rest of which isn't even the original, yet we hang onto a virtuoso trick. Where's the reverence for the rest of the original text, style, and tempi? Why is it fine for men to do what fits them best and has morphed into something very different from the original in the original ballets, but for women, it's fouettes or don't bother?

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You bring up some juicy questions here. I'm of a couple different minds when it comes to this topic. Working in such an impermanent art form, I'm constantly wondering what it looked like at the beginning, and so I'm pleased when people dance what some call the King James version. But it's also true that, from that beginning, some choreographers were more interested in dealing with the individual dancers in front of them than they were in creating a step sequence that was set no matter who was performing. Petipa is just one of the best known of the tinkerers.

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